‘Bye Bye Birdie’ is a feather in Drury Lane’s cap

A desperate devotion to the pop star du jour, misunderstood teens and long-suffering parents standing in the way of attainable (and fully grown-up) life goals; if that sounds like something ripped from the headlines of your tween’s magazines, then we’ve got a show for you!

If you go

Runs through March 13, 2016

Lucille is located at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL

www.drurylanetheatre.com

“Bye Bye Birdie,” the hit Broadway revival (now playing at Drury Lane Theatre and directed by multiple Jeff Award-winner Tammy Mader) is a charming throwback to a “simpler” time, but retains a surprising amount of relevance for today’s families. The show revolves around Conrad Birdie, a not-entirely-unlike-Elvis heartthrob, whose iron grip on the emotions of 1950s American teenagers is about to be disrupted by the good ol’ U.S. Army and that pesky draft. His quick-thinking agent (and incredibly tolerant gal Friday) arrange a ratings explosion to take place on the Ed Sullivan Show, where Birdie will bestow a kiss on one lucky fan before shipping off. Potential roadblocks: Conrad Birdie’s inability to stick to his squeaky clean image, the fan club president’s recent steady beau (who isn’t too keen on that public kiss), the girl’s suspicious (and BB gun-wielding) father, the agent’s overbearing mother, the gal Friday’s ultimatum to the same such agent and that whole issue of getting to the train station on time.

I had forgotten how incredibly catchy this score was–and is. Under the musical direction of Alan Bukowiecki, the show sock-hops along to tunes from an absolutely stellar time in American music history. The cast, led by Jeff Award-winner Michelle Aravena (as show-stopping Rosie) and Matt Crowle (as the likable Mama’s boy, Albert), is a cohesive (and riveting) ensemble with range for days. Jason Michael Evans as the titular “Birdie” has a killer voice and is dreamy as the day is long, sure, but his real strength comes from portraying a largely “go with the flow” and silent object: of the teenagers’ adoration, of his manager’s nest egg and of the embodiment of what the adults feel is wrong with today’s kids. (Teen pop stars as a commodity, hmm? Ring any “Where Are They Now” bells?)

“Bye Bye Birdie” is great fun, and is perfect for the tweens and teens in your family. (And, as I can attest, it makes a terrific girl’s night out show, too.) Birdie runs over two hours with one intermission, but the show zooms like a hot rod.

***

Drury Lane has a newly revamped dining destination which shines every bit as brightly as its onstage counterparts. Lucille, which pairs an Art Deco atmosphere with lightning fast pre-show service, features exceptional food and an impressive wine list. Among the standouts: the delicate oysters Rockefeller, the sea bass en papillote (poached in parchment with fennel, garlic, and a host of other goodies seasoned to buttery perfection) and a creme brûlée cheesecake from Lucille’s pastry display that’ll make you wish you’d started with dessert. (They have a kids’ menu too, just perfect for a quick, pre-matinee lunch!) Besides main mealtimes, Lucille is also open for Saturday afternoon tea and Sunday brunch–and with your theater seats just a short stroll across the lobby, there’s zero scrambling for curtain time. (Although I highly recommend spending some time chilling with a glass of pinot noir and gazing up at the gloriously grand chandelier, regardless of theatrical plans.)

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